Billionaire financier and investor Thomas H. Lee was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his Manhattan office Thursday morning, police sources said.
Cops responded to a 911 call at 767 Fifth Avenue, where Thomas H. Lee Capital LLC is located on the sixth floor, around 11:10 a.m., according to sources.
EMTs pronounced the 78-year-old businessman dead at the scene.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will determine the official cause of death.
“The family is extremely saddened by Tom’s death. While the world knew him as one of the pioneers in the private equity business and a successful businessman, we knew him as a devoted husband, father, grandfather, sibling, friend and philanthropist who always put others’ needs before his own,” Lee family friend and spokesperson Michael Sitrick said in a statement.
“Our hearts are broken. We ask that our privacy be respected and that we be allowed to grieve.”
A front desk worker at Lee’s office building was told there was an “emergency” on the sixth floor, but was unaware of Lee’s death.
“They don’t want anyone going to that space right now, not even the building staff,” the man said.
Lee is credited with being one of the first financiers to use borrowed funds to purchase a company, a practice known as a leveraged buyout.
In 1974, he founded Thomas H. Lee Partners L.P. and served as chairman and CEO of the firm and its predecessors.
The private equity pioneer purchased Snapple in 1992 and sold it two years later for $1.7 billion, making 32 times his investment.
However, not everything always went as planned.
Lee led a deal for Vertis Communications, the fifth-largest North American printer, in 1999. By 2006, when many of its competitors had expanded to provide additional services such as marketing, it had fallen to ninth place due to a lack of funds. Vertis declared bankruptcy in 2008.
Lee and his longtime partners split in 2005, with Scott Sperling running Thomas H. Lee Partners, and Lee left to form Lee Equity Partners in 2006, where he served as chairman until his death on Thursday.
According to Forbes, Lee’s net worth was estimated to be $2 billion at the time of his death.
Lee leaves behind his wife of 27 years, Ann Tennenbaum. He is survived by his children Jesse, Zach, Nathan, Robbie and Rosalie, as well as two grandchildren.